ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Tukey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his foreign minister on Monday claimed to have wrought concession from the United States on Ankara’s threatened invasion of American-backed Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) and its requested extradition of a Turkish Islamic cleric residing in Pennsylvania.
Speaking at a rally in the mainly Sunni conservative Turkish Province of Konya, Erdogan took pride in his declaration of an imminent invasion of northern and eastern Syria where US-backed Kurdish fighters continue the last battle to defeat the Islamic State (IS).
“We talked with Mr. Trump. He gave a positive answer. We are going to sweep Syrian lands until the last terrorist is eliminated and until free elections are held there,” Erdogan vowed to a cheerful gathering of thousands of his supporters.
By “terrorist,” the Turkish strongman was referring to US and France’s Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) partners who have been at the forefront of the fight against IS for the past four years.
Erdogan did not detail when US President Donald Trump responded positively to his near-daily pleas with Washington for an assault on Rojava where American soldiers keep bases and airstrips.
Last week, when he promised to dismantle the de facto Kurdish autonomy in the region, Erdogan made clear his complaint was with the Kurds’ aspirations by saying he knew Arabs from “terrorist Kurds,” in a pointed response to Americans’ insistence that SDF was multi-ethnic.
“Along the 500 kilometer-border (310 miles), we may begin military operations at any moment without bringing harm to US troops. We may come any night,” he continued.
The two leaders last spoke on Friday in a phone call. Trump tried to dissuade Erdogan from staging an attack on northern Syria, according to Wall Street Journal.
Turkey already occupies almost all of the northwestern portion of Syria near its border, including the Kurdish region of Afrin, turning the zone into an effectively Turkish province by appointing teachers, imams, and local administrators, running other local affairs, and resettling Arabs in Kurdish towns and villages.
Erdogan’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, meanwhile, alleged that Ankara was about to get yet another diplomatic victory in one of its long-standing disputes with its NATO ally.
Cavusoglu, like his boss, claimed Trump told Erdogan that the US “was working on extraditing” Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based Turkish Muslim cleric whose movement Ankara holds responsible for a failed coup d’etat in 2016.
There has been no reaction from the White House regarding the accuracy of allegations by the Turkish leadership.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany